NCS Children’s Advocacy Center

"Our core philosophy is that child abuse is a multifaceted community problem; and no single agency, individual or discipline has the necessary knowledge, skills or resources to serve all the needs of all children and their families."
-- Karla Steckler Tye, Executive Director, Children’s Advocacy Centers of Mississippi

The Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) is a child-focused, community-based program that focuses on children ages 3 through 18 who have been victimized by physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect, or traumatized by witnessing a violent crime. It also serves adults who do not have the cognitive ability to protect themselves.

Alleged or suspected victims are referred to the Center by the Mississippi Department of Human Services, a Youth Court, or a law enforcement agency in Adams, Claiborne, Franklin, Jefferson or Wilkinson County.

Before the Center was begun, child abuse victims had to repeatedly relive their trauma by telling their stories to a teacher, police officer, doctor, social worker, mental health professional, prosecutor and others. We help such victims by providing one interview with a trained forensic interviewer.

That interview is viewed through closed circuit television by a multidisciplinary team including representatives of concerned agencies, including law enforcement, Department of Human Services, court appointed special advocates, mental health and medical services, the Youth Court, the district attorney’s office and possibly the school. The team, focused on the child victim, can then make coordinated decisions about case investigation and management.

In addition to eliminating the need for numerous separate interviews, this arrangement ensures that the victim’s questioning includes matters of concern to each agency involved, enlists the expertise of the full team in determining appropriate follow-up care for the victim, and results in evidence gathered in a manner suitable for court proceedings.
As appropriate following the interview, the Center makes therapy services available to the child and/or nonoffending family members. All services of the Center are provided free of charge since most victims could not otherwise afford them. The Center also links the child and family to other aid available in the community, provides transportation to therapy, and emotionally prepares the child for the experience of testifying in court. The multidisciplinary team for each county meets monthly to follow up on each child abuse victim’s physical and emotional status, living situation and use of mental health and community resources.

The services of the Children’s Advocacy Center can be life-changing, if not life-saving, for the child victims it reaches. Without the Center, most child abuse victims in the 5-county area would enter adulthood with no opportunity for healing.

Without therapy, victims often pay a lifetime price in psychological complications (cognitive delays, depression), physical health issues (brain damage), and behavioral consequences (high-risk or sexualized behaviors, juvenile delinquency). Society as a whole is burdened with juvenile delinquency, adult crime, and greater child welfare costs.

These costs - to the child and to society - can be mitigated or avoided because of the critical services of the Children’s Advocacy Center.